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Recovered COVID-19 patient blood needed for clinical trials as donations rebound

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A slump in blood donations when COVID-19 restrictions hit Australia in March has turned into a positive for Red Cross Lifeblood.

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The South Australian arm of the blood donation organisation has reported an increase of more than 7 per cent in appointments for the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year.

The spike in volunteers follows a national call out in March, when COVID-19 lockdowns led to a shortage of 14,000 donations.

Lifeblood’s Jen Salter said Australian blood and plasma donors responded overwhelmingly to the call for donations, despite the emergence of the pandemic.

“In April, every state across the country had either their largest or second largest plasma collection day on record and appointments continue to be well filled,” she said.

“The number of new donors is encouraging, with almost 3600 South Australians rolling up their sleeves for the first time since the start of the year and 100,000 new donors signing up across the country during the financial year.”

Although the organisation is pleased with the uptick in donations, it is vital the momentum can be maintained.

“Lifeblood needs 29,000 donations each and every week to meet demand. We are asking blood and plasma donors to continue to visit us in the coming weeks and months, and to keep up regular appointments,” Salter said.

“Blood will always be needed for accidents, emergency surgery, new mums, and cancer patients.”

Red Cross Lifeblood chief executive Shelly Park said the influx of donors presented challenges in balancing a surge interest with social distancing practices and increased health checks.

“We found ourselves in the unusual position of having to reschedule some donations and asking people to be patient as they tried to find available appointments,” she said.

Lifeblood has been collecting convalescent plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 since May.

So far, 419 donors have taken part in the process, with 29 coming from South Australia.

Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that contains antibodies, and will be used in clinical trials, in the hope it provides passive immunity against COVID-19.

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